When getting to the gym seems like a distant fantasy, you need something else to help pick up the slack. That's where exercise bands can come in handy -- by pulling on the bands and literally removing their "slack," you're creating resistance that can help you tone your arms, back and legs. You can do a resistance band workout whenever you have a few extra minutes.
Choose a resistance band that gives you enough tension to give you a good workout -- not too tight or too loose. Differing brands of bands have different tension levels and lengths, so you may have to experiment to get the right level of tension. Lighter-colored bands typically indicate less resistance, while darker ones indicate more resistance, according to MayoClinic.com. Check out a few different types at a sporting goods store to get an idea of what works for you. Some have handles, some are just basic loops; choose between them based on comfort and your budget. Grasp the loops or handles at the ends of the bands in each hand, hold your arms straight out in front of you, and then pull outward to get a feel for each band's tension level and comfort.
Develop a workout plan for using your resistance bands. Like any resistance exercise, give individual muscle groups at least 24 hours rest between workouts. If you want to use the bands every day, your plan could include 10 to 15 minutes of exercise, alternating between upper- and lower-body workouts each day. Plan for one day of rest to give your whole body time to recuperate.
Work your biceps by standing with both feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Hold the loop of a band in your right hand and then extend that arm downward until the arm is straight and in front of your legs, with the palm facing outward. Grasp the other end of the band with your left hand, and then pull the band toward your shoulder to create tension in your bicep muscle. Do 10 to 12 repetitions with one arm, and then switch hand positions to work the other bicep.
Work your triceps muscles by grasping one end of a band in your right hand and holding that hand at the small of your back. Grasp the other end of the band with your left hand and point your left elbow upward; the lower part of the arm will be near the back of your head. Extend the left arm upward, working to straighten it above your head to create tension in your tricep muscle at the back of the left arm. Keep your right arm steady. Do a set of 10 to 12 repetitions and then switch sides.
Work your upper back by grasping the band with both hands, placing them in front of your chest about shoulder-width apart, with your palms down and your elbows slightly bent. The band should have slight tension in this starting position. To strengthen your upper back, pull the band outward so that your shoulder blades move toward each other. Do a set of 10 to 12 repetitions.
Wrap the band around both ankles to do the hip abduction exercise. Place your right hand on a table or chair for stability, and then raise your left leg to the side, creating tension in the band and a burn in the left hip. After 10 to 12 repetitions on each side, move to the hip adduction exercise. Move your right leg slightly forward, then cross it in front of your left leg, creating tension in your inner thigh. Do 10 to 12 repetitions and then repeat the move on the other side.
Work the quadriceps of your thighs with a squat using the resistance bands. Place the band under both feet with feet shoulder-width apart, and grasp one end of the band with each hand. The band should feel taut. Squat down, bending your knees and working to position your thighs parallel to the floor. As you stand back up, you'll feel your quadriceps working against the resistance of the bands. Do 10 to 12 repetitions -- if you can. While the squat exercise works the quadriceps even without the bands, adding the bands creates even more tension.
- Different exercises require different levels of tension. If the bands are too long to create good tension, wrap them around your hands a few times to make them tighter.
- Take care not to pull the exercise bands too tightly, or they could slip out of your grasp and cause injury.
- Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.